Never met a returnable she didn’t like

A long time ago, back when Ann Landers was still alive, I read a column where a woman wrote questioning the wisdom of dining out again with a suitor she referred to as “Mr. Cheapo” or something like that.

His dastardly dating deed? When the bill came, he produced and used a price-shaving coupon. While Ann jumped right on the bandwagon with the uppity snot who’d written in, I remained grounded in economic reality, unable to condemn.

It wasn’t as if the guy had intentionally steered his date toward a restaurant for which he had a coupon, told her she could order only a particular item on the basis of coupon, or forbade her from getting dessert. No, he had merely tossed a fortuitous discount card in the direction of the damages. What’s questionable about that?!

Date him again? Heck no. She should MARRY him!

In my estimation, he was one of those thrifty guys who doesn’t leave money at the table, a sound and well-recognized business practice. Note: That’s just a figure of speech. Not tipping is a whole ‘nother story and apparently was not the case or the woman would have whined about that, too. If a business issues a coupon, you should happily use it.

As it happens, I am somewhat of an unofficial expert on what constitutes overarching frugality. Growing up governed almost exclusively by coupons left a tawdry taste in my mouth. Our family often purchased things no one wanted or needed just because they were on sale.

As a result, I now refuse to brush with Colgate when I prefer Crest just because Colgate offers generous coupons. However, my line of thinking goes out the window when I find returnable bottles and cans someone else has thrown out their vehicle window.

My eyes see not aluminum cans, but silver dimes lining the roadside, a sight that pushes several of my buttons. It’s hard to tell which miffs me the most: The fact the person was drinking and driving, the fact the person was littering, or the fact the person was extravagant enough to throw out the equivalent of a handful of change.

I self-soothe repeating “Their loss, my gain” as I stop the car and scoop their discards into a bag I keep for just that purpose. Really, it’s a good system, the equivalent of bonus coupons for my own grocery buying – unless I get hit by a driver who’s talking on a cell phone or encounter an especially disgusting, bug-infested, dirt-covered batch of cans.

I wonder what my employees think when they wander past my car in the parking lot and see stray 40-oz. empties rolling around on the passenger side floor of my front seat. They probably assume several things about me, none having to do with frugality. Note to environmentalists: I also pick up the roadside trash I encounter.

It’s no accident most discarded returnables contained beer, not soda. I’ve developed many theories as to who chucks them and why. It’s the woman who went out with “the girls” and got carried away. It’s the underage drinkers who got an older sibling to buy for them. It’s the guy whose wife told him he’s history if she finds just one more empty beer can.

What these folks have in common is a need to hide the evidence. I’m thinking that as a community, we need to innovatively channel this collective irresponsible behavior into something constructive. Perhaps set up a returnable bottle collection bin next to the Habitat for Humanity newspaper trailer by Needham Floors. Those dimes would add up.

This brings me to my latest theory on who’s pitching those returnable beer bottles and cans alongside the road: It’s that Mr. Cheapo guy mentioned in Ann Landers. He got a second date with and went on to marry that frivolous woman who wrote in complaining about him.

While her unchecked spending is what drives him to drink, he continues to pledge his loyalty by paying full price for his brew and then roadside tossing returnables to forego bottle refund in order to further prove his commitment. May their pattern continue indefinitely so I can continue to live frugally off their litter.

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